Ricky Rubio returned to the Target Center in Minneapolis and He put on the jersey of the Timberwolves, the team with which he debuted in the NBA in 2011, for the first time since April 11, 2017. The start of the preseason is being especially emotional for teams that were not in the Florida bubble, among them these Wolves who had not played a game for 277 days. And for its star, Karl-Anthony Towns, with tears in his eyes before the start: lost his mother and six other family members during the pandemic and he has recognized that even basketball will not be therapy for his spirits.
The Wolves fell to the Grizzlies (105-107), a team that is ahead of them in their rebuilding process and that touched the playoffs in Florida, eliminated in the play in, the elimination game between the eighth and the ninth, against Damian Lillard’s Blazers. The Grizzlies have Ja Morant, No. 2 in the 2019 draft and Rookie of the Year last season. The electric point guard returned to his level of last season … or better: 20 points, 4 rebounds, 11 assists and 8/12 shooting in 25 minutes. Along with him, what is known in Tennessee: Valanciunas, Brooks, Anderson… a good team that wants to continue surprising in a West that is going to be very competitive this season.
To make a leap forward in their performance, the Wolves have to pass franchises like these Grizzlies. And there they are. Ryan Saunders, his coach (still 34 years old) is clear about what he wants: modern basketball, Towns as a cornerstone and wide shooters around him. To open the preseason, although he warned that he will continue to do tests, left Ricky on the bench, and also Juancho Hernangómez, who started as power forward last season, following his transfer from Denver. D’Angelo Rusell (14 points, 3 assists) was the starting point guard, surrounded on the wings by Malik Beasley’s points (12) and Okogie’s work, with Jake Layman starting power forward alongside Towns. A dynamic player who defends, shoots and cuts very well towards the rim. Ricky was at his level in 12 minutes (9 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists) and Juancho had a bad day shooting (2/10, 0/4 in triples, 8 points and 6 rebounds), the X of his equation, the factor that will increase or decrease his minutes in the Wolves rotation.
He also debuted in the Wolves the number 1 of the last draft, un Anthony Edwards who left details (5 points, 4 rebounds … but 2/9 in shots) and samples of his defensive potential. And he played number 6 of 2019, a Jarrett Culver who disappointed last season and who showed no progress as a scorer (3 points) but did show his defensive instinct. This is how Saunders will have to compose a puzzle in which, surely, Russell and Ricky will end up sharing many minutes of backcourt. Ricky will put the direction and vision of the game and Russell the points and the outside shot next to a Towns that finished with 13 points, 8 rebounds and a bad series of shots in just 22 minutes. Ricky played down the bad night for the team: “It’s going to cost, this is like coming back from an injury, it’s been a long time.” And he assured that he will complement well with D’Angelo: “It is very good to play with him, he is a great scoring guard.” And this, in turn, also made it clear that he believes he can benefit from Ricky’s company: “We complement each other well, I like it. It is a simple dynamic to share the court with a player as stimulating as him “.